As Oregon starts to open back up along with the rest of the country, many people are coming out of a year of semi-isolation. For some, this means relearning how to be around people and showing both ourselves and the world the love we deserve. Twenty-two years ago, Gloria Jean Watkins — best known by her pen name, bell hooks — wrote “All About Love: New Visions,” and its messages still ring true today.
In 13 chapters, hooks outlines what it means to both give and receive love. She critiques capitalism, as one of the biggest factors in a society that she claims fears love. hooks is honest and open throughout, detailing stories of her own journey to love. The book is not a self help book, but rather a look into the action of loving.
hooks details the wide range of what love is — from familial love and self love to true love — and argues its existence. Filled with quotes both cheesy and inspiring, the novel left me wanting the English language to include specific names for the different types of love.
I have gone through my own journey with love, both learning how to love myself and those around me. This book acted as a guide to deepen my understanding of what it means to love and be loved.
“All About Love” is not just about romantic love, although that is a big piece. hooks talks about childhood as the “original school of love.” Children learn from their family and those around them what it means to love someone. hooks talks about her own childhood and criticises the way many children are raised: “Abuse and neglect negate love.”
When children are not born into a family of love or a society that celebrates love, they grow up not knowing how to love, hooks wrote. She encourages readers to commit to the journey of self love — which, for her, necessarily includes others.
While I believe self love can often include others, I disagree that it needs to. “Self-love cannot flourish in isolation,” hooks wrote, but I think one piece of self love is learning how to be alone and enjoy your own company.
My biggest critique is that the book emphasises a number of gender roles and focuses on heterosexual relationships, while only vaguley mentioning that these lessons in love apply to non-heterosexual relationships as well.
There are pieces throughout that are very spiritual, namely the last chapter which focuses on a story from The Bible. She provided her own definition of spirituality: the “belief that God is love.” Whether or not you are religious or agree with her fully, the book’s underlying message is society’s “lovelessness” and our need to address that within ourselves.
Overall, the novel comments on how capitalism corrupted society’s view on love and calls for the reader to connect to the spiritual — whatever that means to you. It also asks the reader to be introspective and honest with themselves.
“All About Love” is broken up into different chapters that each discuss a certain type of love. In this way, the book can serve as a guide and does not need to be read chronologically. When I read the book from start to finish, I found it difficult because I needed time to process each chapter. This is a book that begs the reader to take their time and reflect
Whether you are just beginning on a journey to reconnect with love or you are simply curious about how an entire book can talk only about love, you will most likely learn something about yourself while reading “All About Love.” Even though it is over two decades old, the yearning for love is still real — as is the fact that we live in a capitalist society that does not emphasize the importance of love.